Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Sunday, June 7, 2009

New Stories: When Shannon Met Heather, Morning Gift

Continued from When Shannon Met heather, Part 4.

eather awoke on the first morning of her life as a wedded wife to the sound of wood being chopped. At first she just stretched and yawned, assuming Shannon was back for another day's work on her cottage. Then she remembered the day and night before, how drunk he had been, how he had gotten the priest drunk as well, what a fool he had made of himself and her at the wedding feast and how she had handed him a blanket and told him to sleep somewhere other than her bed, which by rights was his also now. She frowned. She thought, "What have I gotten myself into?"

She rose, washed and dressed, then decided to bring bread, cheese and milk out to him. It was her duty, after all. Coming out the door with the plate and cup, she saw him at the woodpile putting larger pieces of wood on a stump and then splitting them into smaller pieces with an ax. She stood a moment to watch the muscles in his back ripple as he worked. She saw the curls that were dark with damp plastered to the back of his neck.

When Shannon turned to toss some pieces of kindling onto a pile, he caught site of her. His look was subdued. He vowed his head and let the ax hang loosely in his hand. "Heather, me darlin'. I cannae tell ye how sorry I am about yesterday. I told ye I am a wastrel. This is one leopard who may not be able to change his spots."

Heather softened at his contrition, but said chastising. "Shannon, ye shamed me in front of my friends."

Shannon looked dejected. "Aye, and I wouldnae blame ye if ye asked for annulment. Our marriage is not consummated. The Church will surely grant ye a second chance."

Heather looked at her new husband. He had removed his jerkin and shirt and was naked to the waist. His skin was shiny and slick with sweat in spite of the chill morning. She felt that now familiar warmth growing in her belly , and something told her she did not want to throw that feeling and any other more intense ones away. She shuddered a bit realizing that this must have been what her own mother had felt with the peddler she had lain with, then been deserted by, and she was glad she had had more sense than her mother. She had made Shannon wait until they were wed.

Heather approached him and lay his food on top of the stump. She reached up and stroked his cheek gently. "Och, nay, my husband. I dinnae wish to cast ye away. "

He looked at her uncertainly, and took her hand and kissed the palm. She hid a thrill that went through her body. Shannon just breathed, "Heather, me own darlin'." He waited to see what she would do next.

"Break your fast, my dearest," she urged. "I must take some things to Emily. We will talk when I return." She turned on her heels and did not see the look he followed her with, confused, reassured, disappointed all at once.

Heather bore the winks and lewd looks of those she passed on the common on her way to Sean's and Emily's cottage. No one wondered at her reaction as Heather was a known prude. Some shook their heads after she passed, one fellow commenting, "The Irishman has slim pickin's, methinks. Poor lad."

Emily looked up in surprise as Heather came through the gate to her dooryard. "Heather! I should not have thought to see ye up and out so early on your first day as a wife!" Heather just gave her a long suffering look as she came over and placed a basket with some dried laundry on a table where the little ones were eating porridge outside.

"Sean is not at home, I hope?" Heather stated.

Emily put down the grain she was grinding in a mortar and settled back on her heels, crossing her arms in front of her and giving Heather a considering and not too approving look. "Oh Heather, ye didn't."

Heather looked up, her eyes filled with offended propriety. "Didn't what?"

"Didn't make him sleep outside." Heather's quickly averted face told Emily everything. "Oh Heather, why ever did ye do that? Were ye afraid of makin' love with him? I would wager he is a very gentle lover."

Heather blushed. "Ye would, would ye? When he is sober or when he is drunk?"

Emily smiled sardonically. "Sean was just as drunk on our wedding night. Men do that. Why, I was more than a little tipsy myself that night."

"Emily," Heather protested, "He made a fool of himself and me last night and during the wedding. I can hardly show my face in the village today."

Emily startled Heather by slamming her fist on the table. The children looked up surprised as well but saw the fit of anger on their mother's face was directed at the woman, not them, and went back to their porridge.

"Heather, I swear I shall ne'er understand ye. He did not make a fool of himself and ye. Ye did."

Heather was aghast. "I did? How did I make a fool of myself? I didnae have a single drink."

Emily picked up the basket of clean clothes and took it through the doorway, where Heather could hear she threw it on the floor with some force. The children eyed Heather warily over their spoons of mush.

Emily came back out and shook a finger at her friend. "Mayhap ye should have. Shannon was just celebratin' the wedding and his happiness. Everyone knew that and loved how happy he was. It was ye they stole uncomfortable looks at as ye sat all prim and disapproving throughout. Ye embarrassed me and ye embarrassed Sean. Ye should count yourself lucky that Shannon was as drunk as he was, else he would have been embarrassed too. Or worse."

Heather stood and just gaped at her friend. She started to voice a protest but Emily cut her off with a fierce look. "Emily," she pursued.

"Emily nothing. Ye go right back to your husband and make yourself his wife. And learn to forgive. Your marriage will depend on it."

Heather nodded weakly and turned. She walked slowly back to her cottage, thinking about what Emily had told her. She felt like weeping. Was she so cold? Shannon may have misbehaved but did he deserve such treatment as she was giving him?

Concludes tomorrow with The Consummation of Dreams.

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .